5 Steps to Communicating Effectively with Your Employees, Customers, and Suppliers
How is all this unpredictability going for you? We know it’s impacting every portion of your life: work, home, family, kids’ schooling, aging parents, grocery shopping, and areas of your life none of us every dreamed would be affected. The hardest part is feeling like we have little control over an intangible, invisible intruder that can wreak such havoc on the entire world. Let’s look at what we know … at least today, as this is a dynamic situation that continuously changes.
Just recently, we discussed the possible impact of Coronavirus on the US manufacturing sector and how transparency is your strongest ally during such challenging situations. What we know for sure right now: COVID-19 has spread globally and its impact continues to grow. And while the exact effect of the coronavirus on the U.S. economy is still unknown, it is clear that it poses tremendous risks. According to the most recent IPC report, this novel coronavirus has already disrupted supply chains of nearly 75% of U.S. companies. Here’s one vital thing we can do to promote stability during this period of uncertainty: maintain open communications and keep your employees, customers, and suppliers aware of how you will support them.
The current state of affairs for business “as usual” presents many challenges due to quarantine restrictions, travel bans, event cancellations, and so on. For manufacturing companies accustomed to conducting business in-person, suddenly needing to adjust their strategies can be challenging and stressful. As well, manufacturers rely on employees being onsite for production, and this adds another dimension to overall viability if people are stricken ill or are unable work due to mandatory shutdown protocols. Although we always try to plan ahead, actually implementing the plan and adapting to the changing situation is much more difficult than first imagined.
Communicating effectively in the face of disruption is crucial to maintaining the situation and avoiding chaos. Now more than ever, your interactions with all your stakeholders should be focused on delivering the right message, with the right tone and voice, and at the right time. In this spirit, we are providing 5 steps you can take to ensure effective communication with everyone involved in your supply chain during this crisis.
5 Steps for Effective Communication in the COVID-19 Crisis
- Develop a Protocol for Emergent Situations
As with any rapidly changing situation, today’s developments can quickly become outdated. You need to be ready to respond to any other COVID-19 developments or updates to keep your employees and customers safe and healthy. Determine how you will identify new developments and integrate them into the existing plan. Consider the possible scenarios of how this crisis may impact, or has already impacted, your industry and organization specifically, and whether you would be able to provide the same value to all stakeholders.
Some of the questions that need consideration:
- What is the process for responding to new aspects of the crisis?
- How can you support employees if their children are kept home from school?
- Should you carry on with the planned schedule or how will you adjust it?
- How will you support social distancing?
- How will you enable production?
- Are you able to deliver if your customer is in shutdown; what contingencies can be put into place?
- Assign Responsibility
To ensure your protocol is followed, it’s important to assign a crisis management team that will be responsible for the public-facing communication, as well to your internal stakeholders. This team would ideally include a few of the executives and your marketing/communications team. In case you don’t have in-house personnel, or they don’t have the experience of dealing with such situations, working with a marketing agency can make a difference between a chaotic response and a well-crafted message that assures trust with your employees, customer, and suppliers.
- Create a Communication Plan
Clear communication with your employees, customers, and stakeholders, such as investors, suppliers, and vendors is key during such challenging situations. One of the first priorities in the crisis communication strategy should be your internal communication flow—determine the means you will use to communicate with your employees and the messages you will provide them. When a crisis strikes, there is naturally fear among people, which often leads to misinformation. Transparent communication with your employees will help prevent the spread of disastrous misinformation. Keep in mind that employees are also a channel, and enabling them with the right content can extend the reach of your information and credibility with others.
Transparency—the good and bad—are what will reinforce your brand as trustworthy and keep your employees, customers, and stakeholders loyal. Let your stakeholders know if someone from your organization is infected with COVID-19 and what precautions you’re taking to keep everyone safe and preventing it from spreading. The circumstances may be beyond your control, but how you approach, mitigate, and respond to them is well within your control.
You should also create templated response statements for every possible scenario to communicate with your customers and suppliers on time. Your communication should cover the current state of the crisis, what your organization’s plan is, and actions to manage the situation. It should be empathetic, action-oriented, and verifiable. Through communicating effectively, you can even develop deeper relationships with your employees, customers, and prospects by being a trusted source of accurate information in uncertain times.
- Select the Right Communication Channels
The communication channels you will use to deliver information are also important. Some of the tactics and channels you can use to communicate in this crisis:
- Dedicate a webpage on your website to post updates regarding the situation and how you plan to manage it
- Develop email newsletters to communicate timely updates
- Use social media to provide information consistently to a wider audience
- Respond proactively to any queries and seek feedback
- Schedule webinars in place of face-to-face meetings
- Develop Marketing Contingency Plans
Having a well-defined communication policy helps tremendously, but there are other critical aspects of the business that require planning as well. The fear of the pandemic affects it all—the market becomes more volatile, consumer behavior becomes unexpected, and the business, in general, will face sudden fluctuations. Therefore, assess the current market scenario and predict short- and long-term changes in the market behavior to plan your marketing activities accordingly. We do not know the exact impact of COVID-19 on all industries and it’s unknown how long the crisis will last, but the demand for goods and services will be there when the pandemic ends, and companies need to prepare—not only in the short term—but also for the long term.
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused upheaval, fear, and uncertainty around the world. To continue providing value, organizations need to ensure that employees, customers, and all stakeholders in the supply chain are adequately informed. As the intensity of the crisis subsides, the insights this has brought to light with regard to business models and contingency strategies should help us all revisit how we address dealing with unexpected crisis and maintaining effective communication during challenging times.
If you need help with communicating more efficiently and effectively with your customers during these times, Grant Marketing is here to help. Let us know if we can write emails, website pages, blogs, webinars, and other communication tools for you to keep everyone current on how you are dealing with the crisis. Stay safe and be well.